All-Star football team in search of funds for tournament trip
A dream is on hold for a group of at-risk children who just want to play football. The reason is pretty simple - money.
Nine-year-old Isiah Howell may be learning the fundamentals of football on a field at Gustafson Park, but in life, Isiah and many of his other teammates, have already been to the school of hard knocks.
"I see a whole lot of ambulance and fire trucks in our neighborhood and I see someone sitting on the sidewalks in handcuffs," said Isiah about what he sees weekly in his west side neighborhood.
Isiah and his teammates are part of the Northwest Youth Football League, serving at-risk children, some who live below the poverty level.
"You might deal with kids who probably just don't have it at home as far as food, you know, supplies to play football," explained coach Derek Lewis.
Lewis has tried to teach his players that on the field, they can be children.
"It helps me forget about the things that I see in my neighborhood," said Howell of getting to play football each week.
"To a lot of 'em, it's a dream," said Lewis.
The dream could get even better, but for now, is on hold.
Twenty-two players, the league's All-Stars, have been invited to play in a tournament next month in Kentucky.
Getting to that tournament, though, is going to take more than just hard work and practice. It's going to take money, too - about $150 per player for food, travel, and hotel. It's money that many of the kids, like Isiah and his family, just don't have.
It hasn't been for lack of trying, though, to raise the funds during games at their concession stand. Even that has been hampered by several break-ins to the stand, where the team has lost supplies and even football equipment.
"We all understand crime happens, but when you're taking away from this area here, everybody knows what this is for, so why would you steal from kids?" Lewis said.
It's a question Lewis hasn't been able to answer. He also doesn't know what to say yet, when it comes to questions about the tournament.
"I'm gonna tell 'em the truth and let 'em know what we can accomplish and, you know, if we can't accomplish it, then we went down swinging," explained Lewis about what he'll tell the team.
After all, these children have faced much bigger issues, like gunfire on their street.
"They're always carrying around weapons, especially the adults," Isiah told Eyewitness News.
The tournament would be a chance to escape that, even if its just for the weekend.
The team will be in the community this weekend, with donation buckets, trying to raise the funds to go to the tournament. It will cost about $3,300 for all 22 players to go.
They've also set up a fund at Regions Bank under "Northwest Youth Football League." The tournament is November 10-11 in Owensboro, Kentucky.